Help On the Way For Street Vendors Who Need a License?
It’s starting to seem like all carts all the time these days… Sarah DiGregorio becomes the latest reporter to shine a light on the difficulties facing street vendors these days. Her interesting article in today’s Village Voice focuses on how hard it is to get a license, and the black market that has arisen out of the demand created by a 1979 law restricting the number of licenses available citywide to 3,100. But according to the piece, help might be on the way:
A bill introduced by Council member Charles Barron, which is currently in front of the Committee for Consumer Affairs, would increase the cap on food cart permits to 25,000 and provide for a 5 percent annual increase. Giving all vendors the chance to sell legally would eliminate the black-market system. Bloomberg’s office didn’t respond to a call for comment, but the mayor is thought to be against the bill.
But is the black market for licenses really “the biggest problem in the vending world” today?
Expanding the number of licenses from 3100 to 25,000 would be amazing, but it would be just the first step in what has always been a complex and multifaceted battle. The piece also doesn’t address how the newer trucks and carts might be changing system in immeasurable ways. The vendors who control the streets now, might not be in favor of easier access to licenses if it means more competition from scores of fancier trucks with PR people promoting them.
There’s no question more licenses would help eliminate the black market, but it still wouldn’t solve the biggest problem facing vendors today: finding a legal parking spot where they don’t get harassed by the cops, brick and mortar businesses and, even more importantly, other vendors. In fact, putting 8 times as many trucks and carts on the streets might even make the problem worse- especially if the city doesn’t support the vendors by loosening the laws that make it so difficult to vend (even for those who do have a license.)